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Budget 2021: Reactions from the Healthcare Industry

In a bid to boost the pandemic hit economy, through the multiple investment announcement in the sectors like Health, Infrastructure, Education, Startups, Automobile among others. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday tabled the first paperless Union Budget for 2021-22 in the parliament.

Here are some reactions of experts from the healthcare industry:

Harshit Jain MD, CEO and Founder, Doceree:

“This year’s budget by Hon’ble Finance Minister is pragmatic, positive, and committed to the healthcare sector which needed a deliberate boost post unprecedented virus outbreak last year. The announcement of a centrally funded scheme – Aatmanirbhar Health Yojana – with an outlay of Rs 64,180 crore over six years in addition to the National Health Mission is a welcome step towards strengthening primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare in the country. 

Setting up of 15 Health Emergency Centres shows the government’s intent to be future-ready to address any healthcare crises. It is commendable that the government has put healthcare at the forefront, putting the focus on curative and preventive health and wellbeing. The allocation this year is likely to be around Rs 2,23,846 crore which is whopping over 130% rise from the budget last year. The proposals would make quality healthcare accessible and affordable, besides standardizing healthcare infrastructure across the country.”

Prateep Sen, Co-CEO & Founder, TriBeCa Care: 

“To cater for India’s rapidly aging population (Currently over 100 million seniors exploding to 300 Million by 2050), the government has to take a serious view of the infrastructure and regulatory requirements to bring elderly care to global standards, and that is by explicitly including home health care and senior care in its health and health insurance initiatives. With Covid shining the spotlight on the plight of our seniors who are stuck in their home, I was expecting that the budget will do more for our seniors who have given their best years in bringing India to where it is today”.

Tamojit Dutta, Co-CEO & Founder, TriBeCa Care:

“The FM had to accommodate many interest groups in this COVID budget and she has done well. For example, the 137% increase in health & wellness spends is truly welcome, though the specifics will be as important as the headline number. Support for Covid vaccination will be certainly important for senior citizens, who are the most vulnerable category. Some exemptions on IT filing for senior citizens have also been announced. However, beyond that, there is limited support for the elderly. Not much focus on higher interest income or cheaper health insurance. So senior citizens remain trapped in a low-interest rate, high inflation environment. This is challenging for those who most depend on the interest income from savings and are worried about galloping health expenses not adequately covered by a generous insurance scheme.”

Danish Ahmed, CEO, Hospals: 

“We welcome the government moves to pay special attention to the much-needed health infrastructure in recent times. Rs 64,180 crore spending plan for healthcare over the next six years in the budget will take India’s health and wellbeing industry to newer heights strengthening Honb’le Prime Minister’s Atmanirbhar Bharat mission and creating a robust ecosystem for primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare in the country. A massive 137% percentage hike in the spending from the previous budget is also the need of the hour to push and set global benchmarks for the largest vaccination program in the world that is taking place in India. This will further boost the confidence of Hospitals in the country to take their reach, services, and treatment standards to newer heights. 

By offering special incentives to healthcare providers cost benefits can be further extended to foreign patients attracting millions of international patients seeking quality healthcare in India, incentivizing the promising medical tourism segment. With two COVID-19 vaccines available and two more expected, India can become the torchbearer of the covid vaccination drive on the global stage. By sharing millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccine in South Asia India has already claimed its global leadership in health and wellbeing and is well applauded by superpowers of the world. With the nationwide Covid Vaccination drive, India can also act as a platform for foreign patients seeking for Covid vaccination in India encouraging covid vaccine tourism.”

Ram N Kumar, Founder & CEO, NirogStreet: 

“The introduction of Aatmanirbhar health program with an outlay of Rs 64,180 Crores in addition to national health mission in the Union Budget 2021 is a step forward in ensuring a Healthy India and claiming its position as an undisputed leader on global health and wellbeing platform. We expect the Aatmanirbhar health program to consider Aatmanirbhar Ayurveda as its integral part. Further strengthening India’s Sankalp of Nation-first, health and wellbeing being one of the six pillars, a 137% of the tremendous rise in healthcare spending has certainly made this budget like ‘never before’. 

By laying special emphasis on preventive and curative healthcare and a proposed establishment of 17,000 rural and 11,000 urban health and wellness centers in the country, the government has reassured its vision of affordable and quality health coverage for all. In the past few years, the government has actively promoted Ayurveda and supported the growth of pioneering research and medical facilities in the country. We further expect special incentives from the huge healthcare spending outlay to create a robust ecosystem supporting world-class research, product development, and drug discovery in the Ayurvedic sector to mainstream it for future generations to accept it as the first call of prevention and treatment.”

Abhishek Trigunait, Chief Technology Officer at ZS:

“It’s heartening to see the increased budget outlay of 2.23 lakh crore, with a whopping 137% increase from the last year. Additional healthcare spending of Rs 64,180 crore under PM Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana will enable the Indian Healthcare ecosystem to plan better for curing new and emerging diseases. The focus on public health is very visible with the setup of Integrated public health labs in every district and the goal to have 17,000 rural and 11,000 urban health and wellness centers. 

This will go a long way in increasing access at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels, with a focus on preventive and diagnostics-based healthcare for the masses. A key challenge however will remain in reaching this goal efficiently, keeping key quality targets in mind. The spending on COVID of 35,000 crores, though expected, would go a long way in helping everyone deal with this pandemic and help India emerge stronger, reading to a speedy recovery.”

Dr. RB Smarta, Managing Director, Interlink Consultancy:

“Overall, it is a very promising and encouraging budget for the health and wellness sector. Happy to see that health and well-being have been given due importance and noted as the first pillar of the budget. Most of our suggestions have been incorporated. Increasing outlay by 138 percent and the focus on strengthening the healthcare infrastructure across the primary, secondary and tertiary levels is a welcome move. The investments allocated for the detection and cure of new and emerging diseases renewed thrust to Mission Poshan, skill development appropriate to the healthcare segment, and commitment to meet one of the SDGs on infant mortality is commendable.

I believe all these steps combined will benefit millions of Indians and help us move ahead on the goal of ensuring healthcare access for all. 

The budget has also given a fillip to innovative, agile companies and has opened several avenues for them. The API sector will get an incentive to boost PLI and the tax holiday to R&D is another positive move. The only letdown in a sense has been that while the government has increased funding and allocation, in some areas it has increased the cost of doing business. 

Again, given that healthcare is a large state issue, the onus will be on the states to ensure that these allocations reap benefits. On the whole, I would give the budget a thumbs up, but resource allocation and on-ground implementation will be critical for success. I would also like to see prevention, cure, and wellness being continuing themes for the budget.”

Dr. Shuchin Bajaj, Founder & Director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals:

“The health allocation in the first digital Union Budget presented in the Parliament after the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 150,000 people so far, reflects that the government is serious about the steps needed to reach that level of health preparedness. The announcement of the new centrally funded scheme, PM Swasthya Yojana with an outlay of Rs 64,180 crore, will strengthen and develop primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities even in the last miles of our nation. Even the budget outlay of Rs 2,23,846, a 137 percent increase from the previous year, in health and welfare shows that our budget has no doubt focused on preventive, curative, and holistic healthcare. The allotment of Rs 35,000 crore for COVID vaccine research shows that more vaccines will be rolled out for the common masses and soon we will have a corona-free nation, “

Dr. Tushar Grover, Medical Director, Vision Eye Centre: 

“On the back of the ongoing battle against Covid, there is no doubt that by raising the healthcare budget by 137%, the government has sent a huge signal. This was a long pressing need. Besides the National Health Mission, the Atma Nirbhar Health yojana with 64,000 crore plus funds is again commendable. The establishment of central institutions, the connection of public health labs, and 15 health emergency operation centers will go a long way in addressing the needs of the health sector. The fact that the government has spoken of preventive health, curative health, and well being altogether implies that all grounds have been covered. The 35,000 crore allocation to vaccines again reaffirms the government’s commitment to stem the Covid challenge.”

Mr. Kamal Narayan Omer, CEO,  IHW Council:

‘The most noteworthy aspect of the healthcare outlay this year is a distinct integration of health and wellbeing with causative factors such as nutrition and clean air. This is a marked departure from the previous budget where curative features received the lion’s share of the outlay. This change in approach, driven by the once-in-a-century pandemic, augurs well for the overall healthcare landscape of India. The massive 137 percent increase in the budgetary outlay with a dedicated corpus of Rs 35,000 crore for COVID-19 vaccines was a much-needed step and I congratulate the government on stepping away from the stock approach to healthcare. 

Recognizing the interlinking of health and socioeconomic and environmental factors such as malnutrition, safe water, and air pollution also deserves a special mention – it will help reduce the burden of infectious diseases as well as fatal non-communicable diseases such as lung cancer which has been tightening its grip on the Indian population for some time now. The voluntary scrappage policy for vehicles aimed at reducing vehicular pollution will require dedicated communication for awareness.”

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